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AUSTRALIAN-made cars would have speedos capped at 130km/h under a State Government plan to tackle the road toll.
Premier Steve Bracks said it made no sense to have cars that could display illegal speeds.
"If you can't go at 240km/h, why have you got 240 on the speedo?" he said yesterday.
"That's the issue, really. Why have that incentive? Why have that inducement?"
The idea was labelled naive by carmakers and faces opposition from the Federal Government.
But Mr Bracks was backed by Monash University Accident Research Centre director Ian Johnston, who said limited speedos would make them easier for motorists to read.
"Why is it that we have so little of the speedo devoted to judging legal behaviour?" Professor Johnston said.
"We're giving people a meter which isn't designed to help them comply with the laws."
Transport Minister Peter Batchelor will push for the new car design rules when he meets with his interstate and federal counterparts next week.
Limits for engine power and speed capabilities should also be considered, he said.
RACV general manager public policy Ken Ogden said the idea had merit.
"It's probably a move in the right direction, but it's not the top priority," Dr Ogden said.
He said Australian transport ministers had already agreed to introduce seatbelt warning systems, which will sound an alarm when a belt is not buckled up.
The speedo idea received a cool response from Australian car manufacturers yesterday.
Ford spokeswoman Louise Teesdale said the plan was simplistic.
"I don't think it's a logical response," she said. "Speed is a huge red herring . . . it is not a key contribution in a huge percentage of road accidents."
Ms Teesdale said Ford did not condone speeding, but more driver education would help reduce the road toll.
Mitsubishi spokesman Kevin Taylor said it was out of step with the rest of the world. Holden said it would implement road safety strategies based on scientific merit.
"Holden is not aware of any research that indicates maximum speed marking on speedo influences driving behaviour," spokeswoman Emily Perry said.
She said the idea also had implications for Holden exports, worth 36,000 cars last year.
Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries chief executive Peter Sturrock said the Victorian proposal was a distraction.
"There is no scientific evidence it would have any effect," Mr Sturrock said.
Better driver education and training would be more effective, he said.
Opposition transport spokesman Terry Mulder also dismissed the suggestion.
A spokeswoman for Mr Batchelor said the idea originated inside the Government earlier this year.
A spokesman for federal Transport Minister John Anderson said the Howard Government opposed the proposal.
It would also involve a uniquely Australian design specification that would be difficult to implement, he said.
"The Minister strongly believes better driving education and training would be more effective," he said.
Mr Anderson has proposed uniform driver training courses across Australia to start in 2007.
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